Editing Silver Efex 2 Smart Filters after installing Silver Efex 3

As you may know from reading my previous posts, I am a big fan of the NIK Collection, first released by NIK Software, then for some time taken over by Google and now being owned and further developed by DXO. Especially Silver Efex is for me the best and most intuitive tool out there for black and white conversions.

Being able to come back to images later and change my editing has always been import to me, so I use non-destructive workflows wherever possible. Before DXO took over and introduced non-destructive editing, the only way to achieve this with the NIK Collection was to apply them as Smart Filters in Photoshop, a technique I used extensively in the past. 

The Problem

Installing the current DXO NIK Collection 4 forcefully removes all older versions and the included new Silver Efex Pro 3 is not able to open Smart Filters created with Silver Efex Pro 2. So editing older files with such Smart Filters is simply not possible anymore. 

This was a significant roadblock for me, since I am just now working on some  projects for which I need to re-edit older images for printing. 

The Solution

I asked DXO for a solution, but they were not able to provide any. According to DXO, only one version of the NIK Collection can be installed at the same time, and a migration of the Smart Filters from Silver Efex Pro 2 to Silver Efex Pro 3 is not possible.

However, I was able to find a solution on my own: while the DXO versions of the NIK collection cannot coexist, it is possible to install the older Google NIK Collection and it seems to work fine in parallel with the new version from DXO.

The version 1.2.11 can still be found in the Wayback Archive, with these direct download links: Windows, Mac.

The installation process of this version does not recognize the newest versions of Adobe Photoshop, but it is possible to specify the plug-in folder manually and then the plugin installs properly. Since the Photoshop Smart Filters are my only use case for the older version, I did not try to install it in Lightroom. Check out this link for finding the correct plugin directory. I opted for the version-independent plug-in folder, in my case, using Windows, at:

C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Plug-Ins\CC\

After the installation, both Silver Efex Pro 2 and Silver Efex Pro 3 are available as filters in Photoshop.

Here some screenshots from the installation:

A Future-Proof Workflow?

So, my final thoughts are on how to avoid such an issue in the future, when DXO again releases a new version of Silver Efex.

First, as mentioned above, since DXO NIK Collection 3, the software has its own non-destructive workflow. Silver Efex 3 is able to edit files created using that workflow with Silver Efex 2, so the problem is limited to the Smart Filters in Photoshop. One can hope that this will also be the case for future versions of Silver Efex, but when asking their support, DXO is not making any commitments here.

Still, if you have been using Photoshop and Smart Filters only to achieve a non-destructive workflow with the NIK collection, it is time to switch to the new built-in workflow for the best chance to be able to edit your files with future NIK versions.

However, if you also use Photoshop for editing and want to integrate NIK filters in a non-destructive manner, you are out of luck. DXO actually does not recommend to use the new non-destructive workflow with Photoshop, noting that there Smart Filters are the way to go. Of course as we have seen then with the catch that any new versions will most likely not be able to edit Smart Filters created with the older versions.

So, one can only conclude: choose your poison …

Your Thoughts?

I hope this article helps anyone encountering the same issue, and as always, don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments.